Why Mulan doesn't seem to be meeting viewers' expectations and how race factors in.
By Kylie Halmi
Disney has made great strides in recent years in the adaptation of the classics into live action films. Movies like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and many more coming soon to theaters. When Mulan was announced in 2015, Disney fans across the world became excited for cultural and ethnic representation that the media lacks. Although the project has taken a while to be released , Mulan finally hit our screens on September 4,2020 via Disney+. Even given the recent status of our world, unfortunately, the movie has not done as well as predicted. While that can be said about most media during COVID-19, people are beginning to wonder if that is the only reason this movie isn't having the same hype as expected.
In terms of reviews, Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie rating site, gives Mulan a 75% whereas viewer rating seems to average around 51%. Debbie Zhou, who writes for the Saturday Paper in Australia, writes that “Disney's transparent desire to capitalise on the Chinese market - with a faithfully unquestioning stance - explains the watered-down adaptation, which appeases more than it excites.”Likewise, Amy Amatangelo, a writer for Paste Magazine states,“While glorious to look at, the movie still feels slightly hollow. All the right pieces are there, but an emotional connection to the characters is lacking.” Many viewers attest this disconnection to the lack of diversity within the production of the movie.
While arguably the cast of the movie is full of diversity compared to most of Hollywood and media in general, the behind the scenes crew is disappointing. Movies that depict struggles within ethnicities cannot fully be accurately portrayed if the members of the crew haven't been through those struggles.
How can you accurately capture a feeling if you have never and will never experience it? This mystifying idea of diversity has been off putting for many but mostly for Gen Z, which is arguably the audience Disney was trying to captivate. A large majority of not only the directors, but all the crew involved identify as white. While this idea of diversity on screen is vital to Hollywood and media we have to also understand that representation cannot end there. Without the ideas and experiences of ethnicities producing and creating the on screen image how can the media begin to accurately portray the oppression and lifestyle of said ethnicity? Is that even a possibility?
With all that being said, Mulan and other films in recent years that seek to diversify media are still groundbreaking and important. Mulan is available to stream now and given that for many youth it is not only nostalgic but a big part of early cultural representation, I recommend giving it a watch. Just make sure before you accept this as a form of radical diversity, you as a viewer look more into the creation of such diversity and ask if it's enough.
Ryan Ford '23,